Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) Know the Signs, Characteristics & How to Help
SPD Know the Signs, Characteristics & How to Help
What do you think when you see the following?
- A child crying in the corner hiding behind a chair.
- A child who chews on something at all times or constantly is mouthing objects.
- A child who is spinning on his chair when he is watching T.V. or who constantly has to be moving and can not seem to sit still.
- A child who will only eat noodles and yogurt.
- A child who has to have a certain pair of socks on each day.
What do these children all have in common?
The answer is that they all show signs of Sensory Processing Disorder or SPD.
- The child crying in the corner is having a temper tantrum for no reason.
- The child chewing something was just bored.
- The child spinning in his chair should just stop and maybe go outside to play.
- The child who eats only noodles and yogurt should be made to eat other food (the “they will eat when they are hungry” philosophy). A parent may also be told “you are the parent, do not let your child tell you what to do!”.
Although each of these reactions differ, they all have one thing in common: Each of these children has a neurological system that is “wired” to process incoming information from the environment differently than children with typical neurological systems. There are eight senses that influence how we respond to information in the environment.
These systems are:
- Vision (what a person sees);
- Auditory (how you hear information);
- Taste (is something spicy, cold/hot, sweet);
- Smell (does this smell good or bad);
- Tactile (touch);
- Proprioceptive (the pressure your bones, joints and muscles receive);
- Vestibular (movement)
- Interoceptive (the process that tells us what is happening in our bodies, bones, skin, tissue and organs).
SPD affects many, many children. Some are affected in a minor way, while others are affected greatly.
If you are a parent who thinks that any of the above behaviors look familiar, you are truly not alone.
We will tell you from personal experience that the child is not doing any of these things on purpose. They are not trying to hold up the entire morning routine to have everyone search for that last sock. What they are doing is finding their place in the world where situations that may be routine to many of us can feel confusing, overwhelming and out of their control. Seeking solutions for them is the first step—but just as critical is becoming the voice and the champion for the child and educating everyone involved in your child’s life (teachers, therapists, physicians AND family and friends). Learning how to help them is the best thing you can do and once you do it, it becomes so important to advocate for the child to those who will be working with your child
You want everyone to have a full understanding of how your child processes the world around them so they will see the behaviors (or reactions) through correct eyes. If a child’s reactions are seen as a bad behavior and are misunderstood, then the action taken to correct that “behavior” will be incorrect. The underlying cause of the “behavior” or reaction will not be resolved and the “behaviors” can get more intense. The cycle will just repeat itself with ever increasing anxiety and frustration from the child. If the cycle continues the child will be thought of as a “bad kid” or a “problem child”.
If you suspect your child’s behavior might fall under SPD, educate yourself—start researching the disorder. There are several recognized sites, but a good place to start is: www.spdstar.org The site includes warning signs of SPD, as well as helpful resources and checklists—these checklists, are helpful baselines and provide a visual representation of where your child MIGHT be on the SPD range (we have included a checklist in the back of the article for quick reference). Typically, we will see children who have either an aversive reaction to input from the environment (over-responsive) or children who have little or no reaction from input in the environment (under responsive). There are some children that also are sensory seeking or craving. These are children that cannot seem to “get enough” of an activity or an input. However, when they are given the input, for example, A child who loves to jump and will constantly jump is given a trampoline, the child’s response to the input does not seem to “regulate” them or calm them. Instead of giving the child what they are “seeking” has the opposite effect; the child seems to have more energy and is bouncing off the wall.
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